Chamber of Commerce showcase returns after COVID-19 challenges

Columbia businesses and nonprofit organizations continue to feel the effects of strain brought about by COVID-19.

Wednesday, however, provided a step forward with renewed optimism.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri, a one-to-one mentorship program that pairs adult volunteers with at-risk youth, is just one of numerous examples of changed plans over the past two years and a yearning to get back to normal.

“Our business really suffered during the pandemic,” executive director Ann Merrifield said. “There’s just a huge need that we weren’t able to meet as well.”

The nonprofit continues to struggle to find adult volunteers for the more than 100 children on its waiting list but was hopeful the event would help address the shortage.

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Showcase CoMo event was postponed in both 2020 and 2021 for the safety of business owners and attendees. The event returned for the first time in three years Thursday at the Holiday Inn Executive Center, as businesses and organizations fostered connections with each other and community members.

Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, talks Wednesday about the chamber's business showcase at the Holiday Inn Executive Center.

“It’s great to have that energy and face-to-face connection back,” Merrifield said. “With this crowd here, I think it’s evident that everybody is ready to be back out.”

Events like the showcase are among the primary ways the program attracts local adults who may have an interest in helping local at-risk youth, she said.

“It’s all about giving businesses the opportunity to make connections, whether it’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer,” chamber President Matt McCormick said of the showcase.

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